- Any long duration oral ulcer, difficulty in mouth opening, white or red patches in oral cavity
- Irregular menstrual bleeding or discharge
- Any lump or swelling in the breasts or anywhere in the body
- Persistent Cough or hoarseness.
- Irregular bowel or bladder habits, any blood in stool or urine
- Any difficulty in swallowing
- Unexplained weight lost
- Change in the size, colour, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore.
Please be aware of the above important warning signs of cancer. Please meet a cancer specialist without any delay if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms. Cancer detected early may be curable.
Why is early detection & diagnosis of cancer important
- Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, before it’s had the chance to get too big or spread is more likely to be treated successfully. If the cancer has spread, treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of surviving are much lower.
- Early diagnosis can increase chances of survival. But improving survival rates is not just down to earlier diagnosis – ensuring patients receive the most effective and appropriate treatment for them is also an important part of the jigsaw
- Every year, millions of cancer patients could be saved from premature death and suffering if they had timely access to early detection and treatment.
- Early detection is based on the concept that the sooner in its natural history the cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment is likely to be.
- The aim of early detection is to detect the cancer when it is localized to the organ of origin and before it invades the surrounding tissues and distant organs, or for some sites, to detect a precancerous lesion.
How can cancer be detected early ?
- There are two main components of early detection programmes for cancer:
- Early diagnosis
- Early diagnosis is the awareness (by the public or health professionals) of early signs and symptoms of cancer in order to facilitate diagnosis before the disease becomes advanced. This enables more effective and simpler therapy. The concept of early diagnosis is sometimes called “down-staging”.
- Screening is the systematic application of a screening test in a presumably asymptomatic population. It aims to identify individuals with an abnormality suggestive of a specific cancer. These individuals require further investigation.
Examinations For Both Men And Women:
- If you develop cancer, you can improve the chance that it will be detected early if you have regular medical checkups and do certain self-exams. Often a doctor finds early cancer during a physical exam or with routine tests, even if a person has no symptoms.
- Some important medical exams, tests, and self-exams are discussed below. The doctor may suggest other exams for people who are at increased risk for cancer.
- Ask your doctor about your cancer risk, problems to watch for, and a schedule of regular checkups. The doctor's advice will be based on your age, medical history, family history, and other risk factors. The doctor also can help you learn about self-exams.
The doctor examines your skin during regular checkups for signs of skin cancer. You should also check regularly for new growths, sores that do not heal, changes in the size, shape, or color of any moles, or any other changes on the skin. Warning signs like these should be reported to the doctor right away.
Colon and Rectum:
Beginning at age 50, you should have a yearly fecal occult blood test. This test is a check for hidden (occult) blood in the stool. This test is done because cancer of the colon and rectum can cause bleeding. However, noncancerous conditions can also cause bleeding, so having blood in the stool does not necessarily mean a person has cancer. If blood is found, the doctor orders more tests to help make a diagnosis. A digital rectal examination should be done during regular checkups.
After age 50, you should have either a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or a colonoscopy every 10 years. In this exam, the doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a light to look inside the rectum and colon for abnormal areas.
Your doctor and dentist examines your mouth at regular visits.
Also, by looking in a mirror, you can check inside your mouth for changes in the color of the lips, gums, tongue, or inner cheeks, and for scabs, cracks, sores, white patches, swelling, or bleeding. It is often possible to see or feel changes in the mouth that might be cancer or a condition that might lead to cancer. Any symptoms in your mouth should be checked by a doctor or dentist. Oral exams are especially important for people who use alcohol or tobacco products and for anyone over age 50.
Examinations For Men
Prostate - Men over age 40 should have a yearly digital rectal exam to check the prostate gland for hard or lumpy areas. The doctor feels the prostate through the wall of the rectum.
Testicles - Testicular cancer occurs most often between ages 15 and 34. Most of these cancers are found by men themselves, often by doing a testicular self-exam. If you find a lump or notice another change, such as heaviness, swelling, unusual tenderness, or pain, you should see your doctor. Also, the doctor examines the testicles as part of regular medical checkups.
Examinations For Women:
When breast cancer is found early, a woman has more treatment choices and a good chance of complete recovery. It is, therefore, important that breast cancer be detected as early as possible. They should talk to their doctor about this disease, the symptoms to watch for, and an appropriate schedule of checkups.
Steps in early detection of breast cancer:
Breast self-examination (BSE)
Breast exams by a doctor or nurse; and
Mammograms (x-rays of the breast);
A mammogram can often show tumors or changes in the breast before they can be felt or cause symptoms. However, we know mammograms cannot find every abnormal area in the breast. This is especially true in the breasts of young women.
Between visits to the doctor, women should examine their breasts every month. By doing Breast Self Examination, women learn what looks and feels normal for their breasts, and they are more likely to find a change. Any changes should be reported to the doctor. Most breast lumps are not cancer, but only a doctor can make a diagnosis.
Regular pelvic exams and Pap tests are important to detect early cancer of the cervix. In a pelvic exam, the doctor feels the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum for any change in size or shape.
For the Pap test, a sample of cells is collected from the upper vagina and cervix with a small brush or a flat wooden stick. The sample is placed in a glass slide and checked under a microscope for cancer or other abnormal cells.
Women should start having a Pap test every year after they turn 18 or become sexually active. If the results are normal for 3 or more years in a row, a woman may have this test less often, based on her doctor's advice.
Significant impacts of early detection of cancer at various sites:
- More than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than 5 years if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
- More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
- More than 90% of women diagnosed with the earliest stage ovarian cancer survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 5% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
- Around 70% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage compared to around 14% for people diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
The promise of early detection is that it will identify cancer in its most curable state, decreasing mortality, and reducing costs of treatment. Early detection may also result in less-intensive therapy and less time will be spent in recovering.